FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group brands saw their European sales fall steeply in September after demand was hit by the introduction of a new vehicle-testing regime in the European Union.
The sales hit followed good results in August when many automakers offered incentives to clear dealer stocks ahead of the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) Procedure type approval tests that went into effect Sept. 1.
VW brand deliveries fell 43 percent in Europe in September. The decline caused the brand's global deliveries to fall 18 percent, VW said in a statement.
VW brand sales chief Juergen Stackmann said the company had expected sales to fall after record sales in the summer. October sales will also be affected by the changeover, he said. "From November, we will be ready for the end-of-the-year sprint in Europe," Stackmann said.
Several top-selling VW models had failed to meet WLTP rules, creating delivery bottlenecks. Best-selling versions of all VW brand models now conform to the new rules, the company said.
Audi's European sales plunged 56 percent in September, leading to a 22 percent drop in the brand's global volume for the month. The decline followed above-average sales results in Europe over the previous two months due to the sell-off of models in stock, Audi said in a statement.
"The increasingly empty stores and the restrictions in the sales portfolio had an adverse effect on deliveries in September," Audi said. The company expects year-end deliveries will be at almost the same level as last year.
Skoda said its sales fell 33 percent in western Europe and 16 percent globally. Some engine-transmissions are temporary unavailable while the company works to complete the homologation of all model variants, Skoda said.
• Download PDF, above right, for group sales for September, 9 months.
Seat blamed a 21 percent drop in its global sales in September on WLTP but did not release any sales by market for the month. The final quarter will be a "challenge" because WLTP will have an impact on the number of vehicles registered in Europe, Seat President Luca de Meo said in a statement. Seat sales dropped heavily in key markets, plunging 55 percent in Germany, 39 percent in Italy and 37 percent in the UK, according to official data from the countries.
Most automakers have made their fleets compliants with WLTP whose results are now closer to real-world usage than the figures created by the previous New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests. VW Group CEO Herbert Diess said in August that a shortage of engineers was hampering efforts to get the group's cars to meet WLTP rules.
On Friday, VW said group sales across all its brands fell 18 percent to 827,700 worldwide in September with deliveries dropping 42 percent in western Europe and 37 percent in Europe as a whole.
"We expect November and December to be stronger months in this region. The WLTP changeover at all brands will be virtually complete by the end of the year," VW Group sales chief Christian Dahlheim said in a statement.
Andrea Malan contributed to this report